Rhona Haszard, expatriate artist and socially controversial "new woman", is
the subject of a new book just released by Canterbury University Press.
The book, Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate New Zealand
Artist, is written by art historian and Canterbury graduate Dr Joanne
Drayton and examines the life and work of the early 1900s artist with great
sensitivity, placing her in a fascinating and cosmopolitan social milieu
while celebrating her vivid and compelling art.
To research Haszard, Dr Drayton retraced the artist's footsteps in New
Zealand and overseas, through France, England and Egypt, culminating in a
stay in Alexandria where, in 1931, Haszard fell to her death from a tower
at Victoria College.
Rhona Haszard was born in Thames in 1901 and was one of five children who
enjoyed a privileged life with a devoted mother and a father who worked for
the Lands and Survey Department, becoming commissioner of crown lands in
During her formative years, job transfers meant the family lived in
Auckland, Christchurch, Hokitika and Invercargill (where she attended
Southland Girls' High School).
At the age of 18, she enrolled at the former Canterbury College School of
Art (now the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts), becoming a
colourful member of an exciting, innovative, bohemian set of women artists
that included Ngaio Marsh, Evelyn Page (nee Polson), Rata Lovell-Smith
(nee Bird) and Olivia Spencer Bower.
Dr Drayton describes Rhona as a "new woman".
"She was a modern woman, a New Zealander who was ground-breaking in her art
and her social and sexual behaviour.
"She dressed eccentrically, recommended Radclyffe Hall's lesbian novel
The Well of Loneliness, spoke positively of de facto relationships
and advocated vegetarianism and unprocessed food.
"But most significantly, she wanted to paint innovatively and
A successful future seemed assured by her marriage in 1922 to Ronald
McKenzie, but her traumatic elopement with Englishman Leslie Greener seemed
to threaten it all.
"It must have been with mixed feelings and amidst much social disapproval
that Rhona transferred her affections to Leslie."
In 1926, the couple escaped to France and her post-impressionist style
rapidly brought international recognition. She exhibited in Paris, London
and throughout England and Scotland, and in Cairo, as well as sending work
back to be exhibited in New Zealand. Her last exhibition opened in
Alexandria in 1931 the night before her shocking death at age 30.
Dr Drayton was born in Balclutha, lived her early years in Invercargill and
was educated in Christchurch. She graduated from Canterbury with a PhD in
She is the author of Edith Collier: Her Life and Work 1885-1964,
also published by CUP, and curated an exhibition of Collier's work that
toured the country.
More recently, in association with the Hocken Library, Dunedin, she has
curated Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate Artist, which is touring
New Zealand's major galleries until April 2005.
Dr Drayton is currently a lecturer in art history and theory in the School
of Design at UNITEC in Auckland.
Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate New Zealand Artist.
Limpbound, 240 x 170mm, 160 pp, colour and black/white illustrations;